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By the time an app is ready to go to market, you may have invested hundreds or thousands of hours in building and refining your mobile app. By the end of the development process, there’s time (and significant resources) on the line.
So are you adequately protecting that investment? Statistically, it’s not likely. High-risk vulnerabilities are present in nearly 40% of mobile applications. Breaking this down by operating system, approximately 43% of Android apps and 38% of iOS apps have vulnerabilities. Where’s the disconnect? Perhaps it’s that 96% of organizations admit to relying on the end-user’s mobile operating systems for app security.
When it comes to protecting your app, the question isn’t if you need security, instead it’s what security tools and solutions are best for your app. Let’s talk about what you should consider when looking for mobile app security solutions — and answer the age-old debate of build vs. buy.
Often referred to as the “build vs. buy” debate, in the realm of mobile app security this more accurately refers to the option of implementing your own security solutions (tests and protective protocols) or purchasing solutions from an external vendor. We also address this in our blog post, Build vs. Buy: Which Should You Choose for Mobile App Security?
In working with organizations across industries we’ve found that some of the biggest deterrents to implementing in-house mobile app security solutions are increases in development costs, increases in technical debt, and the knowledge gap. Security threats are constantly evolving. Few teams have dedicated security researchers who can spend the necessary time studying security threats and the most up-to-date responses. Development teams that are understaffed and over committed and facing time pressures are most likely to adopt third-party solutions. The question then becomes what should you consider when buying a third-party solution or tool. Our experience points to the following considerations.
Understanding your true development costs is key. There are numerous solutions available at different price points. It is a safe assumption that even the most expensive solution will cost less than the total costs of developing and maintaining your own solution. Internally developed solutions add to your technical debt and take up resources that might be more effectively used in developing new product functionality.
It may be tempting to choose a lower-cost solution, which might be less robust or offer less functionality. Understanding your threat model will be critical to ensuring that the option you choose meets your requirements. This isn’t an area to compromise, especially when you compare the cost of a security solution with the potential costs of a compromised mobile app. According to IBM, the average cost of a compromised app is rising and has reached an all-time high. With most organizations paying out an average of $4.35M for data breaches in 2022, can you afford NOT to purchase the security tools your app needs?
Depending on the purpose of your app and where it will be used, you’ll need to take various security regulations or standards into consideration. For example, when developing an mHealth app, if your app is classified as a medical device, you may need to obtain FDA approval. With other apps, it’s recommended that you follow the OWASP standards for mobile app security.
At face value, it makes sense to consider any security solution that meets the minimum security requirements. But don’t miss the larger point — instead of focusing on merely meeting minimum requirements, developers should consider the goal or intent that regulations are trying to accomplish.
The OWASP security recommendations, for example, include code hardening. Not all code hardening solutions are the same. A cheap, easy-to-use solution may allow you to check the box, but it won’t provide truly robust protection against advanced reverse engineering attempts. Focusing on this vulnerability rather than simply meeting requirements will help developers find mobile app security solutions that are truly effective, not just cheap.
Finding a mobile app security solution that provides actionable recommendations is crucial for a few reasons, but most importantly, it’s about saving time and bridging the security skill gaps in your team. For example, you may have the skills to encrypt your data and communications but lack the background knowledge to implement code hardening techniques to protect against reverse engineering. Your security solution, then, should not simply identify vulnerabilities, but it should also provide guidance on why the vulnerabilities are an issue and on how to best address them. This eases adoption and lessens the workload for the development team.
Threat attackers are using increasingly sophisticated techniques, so you need a robust security solution that can stand up against potential attackers investing considerable time to compromise your app. In addition to providing security recommendations, the best solutions are multi-layered (to avoid a single point of failure), protect against static and dynamic analysis and enable you to detect environments attackers would use to analyze your apps and thwart them.
Now that you know what to look for when considering mobile app security solutions, let’s talk about how Guardsquare meets all of the considerations above.
AppSweep scans your Android app’s code to find security issues and offer guidance on how to fix them.
The scanning tool focuses on high confidence tests to save your team time and frustration — no more investigation of false positives. The analysis is fast and accurate, and provides actionable recommendations on how to address the vulnerability. Best of all, it can be fully integrated into your development process so that issues are identified and can be remediated as quickly as possible.
When your team is ready to think beyond compliance and regulations to build the best possible mobile app security strategy, look no further than DexGuard and iXGuard. Not only will these products help you meet those regulatory requirements, but they provide you with a multi-layered security approach that enables polymorphic protection and responsive support.
DexGuard and iXGuard offer code obfuscation, data obfuscation and RASP integration for Android and iOS apps, respectively. They defend against static analysis with obfuscation for fields, classes, arithmetic instructions, and more. They also inject RASP checks to detect rooted devices, debuggers, repackaging, hooking, and other common techniques and tools employed by threat actors.
Finding accurate remediation guidance for current and future threats has never been easier than with ThreatCast. This security solution, available for both iOS and Android apps, monitors threats in real-time. The result is up-to-date threat data that exposes how threat actors are attacking your app. Information can be used to understand current vulnerabilities as well as ones you may not be aware of. ThreatCast also lets you set alerts and indicate remediation actions to handle and respond to threat events in progress and ones that haven’t occurred yet.
Ready to strengthen your mobile app’s security posture? Connect with one of our experts and learn how we can help.